Well, It Is a Friday….

It’s been kind of wintry lately!  It’s snowed a few times in the past week, though most of the snow failed to stick except on the hills outside of town.

This morning as I walked in to town I was treated to this lovely view. Also of note: the construction going on in my neighborhood!
The view from the footpath to the metro. I love where I live.

Places like Zugdidi, Batumi, and elsewhere got pounded a lot harder.  Nothing like the MidWest though.

Apparently last week North Dakota got up to twenty five feet of snow in some places. Thanks, Marissa, for this photo!

Poor, poor Chicago….

The past few days it’s been sunnier, but colder, oddly.  Lots of wind here in Tbilisi—that’s for sure.  Everyone’s also spooked about H1N1.  I don’t know if there’s any legitimate basis for concern (i.e. some major outbreaks or something), or if it’s just your standard flu-season precautions, but Georgians everywhere are wearing little surgical masks in public.  On the subway, in the classroom, at stores.  I don’t know if it’s required for certain people or not, but my school’s mandatories (security guards) all seem to have one.  I’m not getting sick, not yet anyway.  Let me just reassure the folks back home that I’ve been going out with a jacket and sweater always.  I’ve got a scarf and gloves in my pockets at all times in case it’s colder than I thought.  I will admit, much to the chagrin of my host family, I often go out in the mornings with my hair still damp from the shower.  Oops!

Friday night, as I lay in bed listening to my newest podcast addiction (Stuff You Should Know), I heard Ilia stumble in.  “Dedaaa, Rogora kharrrrrr!” he cried, jovially.  Tina replied with a sleepy “Kargad, Ilia.  Kargad.” and returned to bed.  (It’s cold out today and my fingers are a little numb, making for a rough time typing.  Please forgive me in advance!

Ilia poked his head into my room and asked in a loud whisper, “Rali!  Rogora khar?”  I rolled over and told him I was doing just fine and then he revealed a Natakhtari bottle that he had with him, pointed at it, and said “Qkhvino!”  Reluctantly, I got out of bed, got dressed and headed to the kitchen, where the real antics began.

Ilia introduced me to his friend Zaza.  The two of them had been drinking quite a lot already and Ilia was especially far gone.  “We were at my girlfriend’s house,” Zaza told me in halting English.  Whenever he tried to speak he would get caught up on a word he lacked and smack himself in the forehead, playfully saying “Idioti!” and smiling.  Apparently I’d met Zaza’s girlfriend earlier in the week without realizing it.  That certainly did explain the blonde girl I encountered in the bathroom on Tuesday….

I asked Ilia how much he had to drink.  “When Georgian mans drink, mind spins” Ilia said through a combination of English, Georgian, and sign language.  I could already tell that his mind was spinning just by interacting with him, of course.  Ilia boasted that he had had fifty five drinks earlier!  Fifty Five!  That’s a lot—I don’t care what standards you use.  Zaza leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “Fifteen.”

Ilia raised his glass and began to toast.  I’ve probably mentioned the Georgian tradition of Tamada and the importance of having one at any drinking session.  I won’t link to it here, but let’s just say that the toast master is a position of great importance.  Ilia makes an excellent Toast Master.  Back in September, I went to some bar with Rick and Peavey Stevey where we met up with Ilia and his friends.  To this day, Rick recalls my host brother as “Oh yeah!  That guy who made the awesome toasts!”

“Gagimarjos,” Ilia began, searching for a suitable subject for his tamadawesomeness.  “Cheers to the mirror!” Ilia announced with slurred flair.  Ilia usually drinks to Miles Davis.  As a surprise, I bought him a Miles Davis CD for Christmas, which he listens to constantly.  As the night rolled along, Ilia and I quickly lost steam.  Jolly Zaza (He reminds me of a gnome in the best senses of the word possible) seemed ready to keep on keepin’ on, but he understood that it was getting late.

Zaz, as Ilia called him, referred repeatedly to his girlfriend, talking about her in loving terms.  I asked Ilia, “Do you have a girlfriend?”

Ilia used to have a girlfriend named Tako (A name which, I recently learned, has a vulgar homonym associated with it!) who he liked a lot.  Sometimes we play a mournful guitar song about her.  Or at least I think that’s what we’re doing.  As far as I was aware, though, Ilia had been single for some time now.  We don’t talk about girls very often (which is a bold-faced lie), but Ilia’s never mentioned any romantic interests in the past five months that I’ve known him.  Hence my surprise when he told me, “Yes, yes Rali.  She is like from Alaska.”

Now that was a surprise.  Two, in fact!  Not only did Ilia apparently have a girlfriend, but she was, like, from Alaska, of all places!  I told him that I dated a girl from Alaska once (Hi, Stef!) and he asked, “Oh, she was black?”  What?  Now he’d really lost me.  He started to describe his current Alaskan girlfriend as a “mullatka” which is Russian? Georgian? for mullato, I suppose.  What I gather is that he is claiming to be dating a Native Alaskan as opposed to an Alaskan of European descent.  Don’t get me wrong, I trust Ilia in many things.  I’m just not sure how many Native Alaskans have made their way to Tbilisi.

Now, let me just insert a brief retro-active disclaimer.  I might have this story entirely wrong.  Like I said, it was told in English, Georgian, sign language, and a dash of Russian, by a man whose head was spinning after having 55 glasses of wine and toasting the mirror.  Still something about Ilia’s charming demeanor leads me to trust him basically without question.  (Though I am now questioning it, so I suppose this post is just rife with lies! [Just wait until I blog about Star Wars.  I’ll give you a super nerdy rant about Obi-Wan Kenobi and his penchant for mistruths and well-intentioned deceptions. {He’s the man with the feet, Right Tyler?}])

The next morning, I awoke in the afternoon (Luka and I have this saying to describe such malapropisms: One day, Ilia slept for two days!) to the smell of blini and the sounds of jazz and laughter.  Rereading that sentence, I realize what a perfect way to wake up that was.  In fact, I’m getting nostalgic for it already!  I had some delicious breakfast of blini and yogurt and arranged with Tina to have weekly kitchen lessons once more.  Those sort of fell by the wayside last semester.  I take full responsibility for that lapse.  I retired to my room to finish up working on a few things and calling my fellow Bootstraps for logistical purposes.  (Shit!  I’ve gotta email them pronto!)

As I prepared to leave to meet Yev in town, Tina beckoned me into the kitchen once more, saying “Eat!”  I sat down at the table with Ilia, Zaza, and Zaza’s girlfriend, whose name I don’t know.  She was indeed the blonde from the bathroom.  We had a delicious meal of pelmeny and salati (mayonnaise [blech!], ham bits, beets, and mushrooms all diced together.  I should do a food post….) and chatted together.  Zaza and his girlfriend are quite adorable.  I mentioned he looks a little gnomish (in a good way!) and very jolly.  He’s got deep laugh lines for a twenty-something.  He keeps his head shaved and his goatee neat.  She’s a very pretty young blonde girl who laughs and smiles a lot.  They kept feeding and cooing to each other in Georgian.  In some ways it was sickeningly sweet, but mostly it was adorable.  Ilia’s Alaskan mullato was nowhere to be found.  (A side note on the word mullato: Am I spelling it ridiculously wrong?  Is it ridiculously offensive?  Is it ridiculously archaic?  I use it not out of racial insensitivity but just as the English version of “mullatka” which, in turn, probably came in to Russian/Georgian from English….)

I love my host family.  As I spent the evening chilling with Yev at a café then in his apartment, (Woah, Microsoft word auto-corrected “café” to have an accent.  How pretentious!) I thought about how nice it would be to have an apartment on my own somewhere in the city, or sharing with, say, Yev or someone.  I brushed the thought aside as I knew that I couldn’t and didn’t want

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